Liberia Day 1

Left for Liberia to do a USAID Farmer to Farmer fish marketing assignment on Monday evening. During the day, I went to get cash for the trip from my bank. At the other teller was the only other customer in the bank. A white haired elder with plastic rim glasses who most in town know. I realized his daughter was the reason I was standing there. I was in a meeting with her about 15 years ago when I started trolling. She said – “I grew up here. This is a fishing town. Why can’t I buy fresh fish anywhere in my home town?”  That was the beginning of my career selling fish and the reason I was standing here 15 years later heading to Liberia to do fish marketing workshops.

So, the flight to Seattle and I arrive about 11:30 pm. A quick sleep at the hotel, and then catch the 5:40am shuttle back to the airport. The flight to DC left about 8 am. I arrived there late in the afternoon, then a 2 hour layover and the next leg to Brussels. That’s a long flight. Many Africans on my flight to Brussels as it’s a hub for West African flights. Once in there, I took the airport shuttle to the familiar T concourse. Seeing all these Liberians and Sierra Leoneon US residents – many of them now citizens – I always wonder what their stories are and how they got to the states, what they do in the US. What they do when they go home.

After 5 hours in Brussels, it’s a 7 hour 45 minute trip to Monrovia, with a stop in Freetown. It was very weird not to be getting off in Freetown. I envied those that disembarked there and wished I could go and see my family there. We arrived on time in Monrovia. Stepping off the plane, I immediately recognized that smell of West Africa. Rainforest. Cook fires. Humidity. I cleared customs, got my suitcase, and found my host driver without incident. It was about an hour drive into Monrovia.

Huts along the road with children playing under a light or young people walking along the road. Every so often a stand selling night street food. The road is good and well maintained. We arrived at the hotel, and I guess I was not prepared for this. It rivals any nice hotel I’ve been anywhere. Even a toothbrush on the sink – I forgot mine!  Such a contrast with the third world drive from the airport. After 30 years of seeing it, it’s still hard to wrap my head around.

I maintain that 90 percent of where you are in life is where you are born. Sara and I are counting our nickles, preparing for retirement. Had I been born here, there’d be no such “retirement”. Inflation is so rampant that you have to convert money to some sort of asset immediately or that same money may only buy 70% next year of what it does now. I might never have owned a car or motorcycle. My “assets” would be my family and position in my village, both of which would hopefully support me as I age. The numerous routine knee surgeries I’ve had would likely have never happened, and I might even be crippled by this age. Or not even alive It’s a place I’ll always feel out of place but always feel at home. It’s great to be back.